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What is the best iMac Pro Configuration for a Graphic Designer ?
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Anto39x
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Jan 15, 2018, 12:54 PM
 
I'm an old school graphic designer and I'm looking to upgrade to the new iMac Pro as I just feel it delivers on all my current and possible future needs. I have always been a MacPro user, but I just feel as the world has moved on, primarily with video and more specifically 4K video editing production, the specs of the MacPro will actually far exceed my needs... and even though I have always purchased a MacPro for its expandability... realistically all I have ever done in reality with all my MacPro's was to manually update the RAM myself... I never updated the startup drive or the video card... ever... so I feel I could wait for the new MacPro but I know in my heart and soul that it will far exceed my needs and that the cost along with a new standalone monitor will be crazy money.

So if I was to go with the new iMac Pro... what would be the configuration you would recommend.

I currently have a MacPro 12 Core (Mid 2010) with a 512GB SSD drive (only OS and app on that drive) plus 64GB RAM plus an ATI Radeon HD 5870 with 1 GB RAM. I also have QTY 3 x 3TB Internal Drives. I use a Firewire 800 enabled Drobo S for all my backup... that has QTY 5 x 3TB Drives. I also use a 27" Apple Cinema LED Display (not Thunderbolt Version).

My gut configuration preference would be for:-
3.0GHz 10-core Intel Xeon W processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz
64GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory
1TB SSD
Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16GB of HBM2 memory
Magic Mouse 2 + Magic Trackpad 2 - Space Grey
Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad - British - Space Grey
AppleCare Protection Plan for iMac
The main key production apps that I use on a daily basis are:-
Chrome
Airmail
Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Bridge
Adobe Lightroom
Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Acrobat
Quark Xpress 2017
Parallels
My graphic design involves logo design, brochure design, PowerPoint design, large format print design, large format signage design, some light video editing with 1080p footage from Family Holidays etc.

Is anyone in a similar professional production situation to me and what did you go with or what configuration are you thinking of running with. I have never had to worry about this before with the modular MacPro just having these upgradable elements.... but as this iMac Pro is more of a fixed unit, I just wanna be sure I purchase a new system that not only does me for the next 1-3 years.... but possibly the next 7-8 years just as my current MacPro workhorse has done for me... as being 23 years in business for myself... that MacPro (2010) was the best decision and purchase I ever made.

Any comment or suggestions most welcome...
     
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Jan 15, 2018, 01:30 PM
 
Personally I would skip the Vega 64 upgrade, as the upgrade is comparatively minor and I suspect that the bigger GPU will throttle anyway. Then again, we don’t know the clocks of Apple’s GPUs, so it is hard to say until people start benching them.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
reader50
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Jan 15, 2018, 01:54 PM
 
Based on the iFixit teardown, Apple massively overbuilt the cooling system. So it would run silent under most conditions. This appears to be one cause of the RAM access door vanishing. Because of this, I suspect the Vega 64 will not throttle.

The GPU is also soldered down. So the only way to get the upgrade is to order it up front. Bare Feats has benchmarked the iMac Pros with Vega 56 and 64 against each other.
     
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Jan 15, 2018, 06:40 PM
 
The reason I think the Vega 64 will throttle is this page:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208378

The iMac uses 64W while idle, and 370W at full blast. As a decent approximation, that means that the CPU + GPU can draw 300W. This is not exact - I know that they will be drawing something when it is idle, but then you have AC/DC conversion losses, energy for the fans, etc, so it is not too far off. A W series Xeon processor draws 140W and a Vega 64 draws 295W. Those two numbers put together are a whole lot more than 300W.

My guess is that Apple will underclock the GPU to make them fit, because they don't show the clockspeed for the GPU in the tech specs, while the CPU is specified in detail. This is also what I would do, because the Vega 64 as AMD sells it is clocked right up to the cutting edge of what the PCIe specification allows for a single card. Vega 56 is less than 100 MHz slower, and uses 210W instead of 295W. The power consumption is increasing much faster than linear at this point.

So my guess is that other than Vega 56 having an eighth of the shader cores disabled there is exactly one difference: the Vega 64 has 16GB HBM2 RAM clocked at 2GHz, while the Vega 56 has 8GB HBM2 RAM clocked at 1.6GHz, and that the core clocks are essentially the same (and lower than Vega 56 in an aftermarket card). If you just disabled the shaders, Vega 56 would be 12.5% slower - the Barefeats tests show this in two of three tests. In the third test, the gap is bigger, so I would guess that the bigger RAM makes a difference there.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
reader50
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Jan 15, 2018, 10:23 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
The reason I think the Vega 64 will throttle is this page:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208378
Interesting page, especially for what it doesn't say. The notes give away that this is not a spec page, but a measured-usage test, using a CPU-intensive task. They expect 50W more draw for fans if the test were done in a hot room.

It doesn't address what happens with a GPU-intensive load, or a combined load. It's implied that usage can go higher.
     
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Jan 16, 2018, 08:15 AM
 
I know that the wording is confusing, but the GPU must be working at close to its max capacity, because there is nothing else to fill out those 160W that are missing from the equation. If you go back further, this becomes even more obvious - 2009-2011 iMacs have similar power draws with much more modest CPUs, so the CPU can’t be the only thing active.

Note that the power supply is a 500W model (the iFixit teardown), so if the iMac uses 430W in the hot situation, it is getting close to max power draw. A power supply has to supply all the different power phases, and at over 85%, the risk is obvious that one of the phases might be maxed out. Add a little power draw over USB, and we’re getting into dangerous territory. At that point, the computer might crash. 430W must be very close to the absolute max it can safely draw with that PSU.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 17, 2018, 06:32 AM
 
This article implies that the iMac Pro will throttle if you ramp up both CPU and GPU at the same time:

http://appleinsider.com/articles/17/...hen-under-load

Although the GPU results in Unigine Heaven are what is to be expected in Vega 56.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
reader50
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Jan 17, 2018, 01:38 PM
 
Looks like it throttles both the CPU and GPU as needed, with the CPU being throttled more aggressively if both are stressed. Test done on the 8-core / Vega 56. If the 18-core / Vega 64 were used, you'd only get brief full performance on CPU or GPU, before throttling kicks in. With constant heavy throttling when both are stressed.

That, or they have bigger power supplies on the heavier combinations. Apple's specs page does not list the PS wattage for any configuration, so we shouldn't assume the 500W model iFixit found is the only one used. They'd be crazy not to increase the PS wattage for the juicier configs.
     
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Jan 17, 2018, 05:04 PM
 
The bigger CPUs have the same TDP as the 8-core, but Vega 64 has a TDP that is 85W higher than Vega 56. That is my concern with the Vega 64 upgrade - the iMac Pro looks like it is just barely capable of handling the CPU and the Vega 56, and then you add 85W to that. I just don't see how that works.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 17, 2018, 05:48 PM
 
Any idea how Intel can go from 8 -> 18 cores without an increase in TDP? All I can think of is sharply lower clock speeds and/or a more efficient process reserved for the higher core counts.
     
OreoCookie
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Jan 17, 2018, 07:14 PM
 
Lower base clocks for the most part, the 8-core model has a base clock of 3.2 GHz while the 18-core model runs at 2.3 GHz. Technically, the 18-core model has a higher turbo speed (4.3 GHz vs. 4.2 GHz), but if you are using a lot of cores simultaneously, you will never get there.

Regarding cooling, so far all of the reviews have not mentioned problems with the cooling system, although I reckon we will have to wait a year to see whether it holds up or fails over time. On the one hand, I'd like to think that Apple learnt its lesson with the 2013 Mac Pro. On the other, they insisted on using the same dimensions for the iMac Pro that they use for the regular iMac. Hmmm.
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Jan 22, 2018, 05:24 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Lower base clocks for the most part, the 8-core model has a base clock of 3.2 GHz while the 18-core model runs at 2.3 GHz. Technically, the 18-core model has a higher turbo speed (4.3 GHz vs. 4.2 GHz), but if you are using a lot of cores simultaneously, you will never get there.
When you get close to the limit of what the hardware can handle, power consumption goes as the clockspeed cubed. Dropping the clock a little bit causes a massive power saving.

Intel is also playing lots of funny games with the turbo boost for the big chips. They designate one or two of the cores "golden cores" that can take the highest clock with the lowest voltage, and then tries to spread the load over the chip to get thermal dissipation as good as possible.

Regarding cooling, so far all of the reviews have not mentioned problems with the cooling system, although I reckon we will have to wait a year to see whether it holds up or fails over time. On the one hand, I'd like to think that Apple learnt its lesson with the 2013 Mac Pro. On the other, they insisted on using the same dimensions for the iMac Pro that they use for the regular iMac. Hmmm.
I wish Apple had gone back one notch and used the 2009 iMac design instead of the 2012. It had three separate cooling zones, handled iMac Pro levels of thermals already and was much easier to get into.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
OreoCookie
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Jan 22, 2018, 07:15 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
When you get close to the limit of what the hardware can handle, power consumption goes as the clockspeed cubed. Dropping the clock a little bit causes a massive power saving.
Yup.
Originally Posted by P View Post
I wish Apple had gone back one notch and used the 2009 iMac design instead of the 2012. It had three separate cooling zones, handled iMac Pro levels of thermals already and was much easier to get into.
Or better: design an entirely new case with a much better design, incorporating what they have learnt. I can't help shake the feeling that they set themselves unnecessary design goals here: nobody asked them to put a much beefier cooling system in the same exterior dimensions as the current iMac, that's a self-imposed challenge. And I don't agree with their choice to not make RAM and perhaps the SSD user upgradable. (With the primary SSD, I get that this will have to be a custom part. But what about adding one or two M.2 slots?)

I think users would have appreciated
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reader50
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Jan 22, 2018, 10:51 PM
 
Any "pro" desktop should have upgrade options for CPU, GPU, RAM and Storage. Pro notebooks can limit that to RAM and Storage. RAM can be soldered if it's already the max the controller can handle.

The iMac Pro is hard to open, and fails on the GPU front. I agree with P, go back a step for more space inside with better access. And give us back the MXM slot from the 2009 models.

The SSD is unique, as the control logic is on the logic board. Might be easier to design 3rd party replacements, as it appears to be little more than raw NAND chips.
     
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Jan 23, 2018, 12:15 AM
 
Given that the iMac Pro is billed as an all-in-one, I can live with a non-user upgradable GPUs — provided that the new Mac Pro proper supports swapping the GPU. Instead, I'd add the requirement that the machine be easily repairable (instead of complete upgradability). You should be easily able to exchange all of the innards of the machine without a hassle. That includes fans which can easily fail. (Or in case fans have to be cleaned.)

Regarding the SSD, I was thinking of M.2 slots in addition to the custom SSDs. It is clear that the M.2 SSDs won't (in fact, can't) reach the same performance level as the internal twin-SSDs, that's totally cool with me. If custom tech makes that thing faster, use it! But there should be slots to add (“slower”) storage.
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reader50
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Jan 23, 2018, 12:47 AM
 
A number of SSD modules in the laptops use an M.2 form factor, but with a custom logic chip. I feel Apple should make their controller able to fall back and use a standard M.2 if one is plugged in. As you say, in addition to their proprietary solution.

I've noticed as Apple gets bigger and more successful, they pay less heed to standardization. It's affecting storage the most, but their open-source efforts have lagged too. Darwin.org isn't even a valid site any more, for example. And where is the APFS documentation, so 3rd parties can build solutions? If they'd stuck with ZFS, we'd already have file checksumming, on top of open documentation.
     
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Jan 23, 2018, 07:03 AM
 
I am much less concerned about internal storage for an iMac now than I was before TB3. It is the same bandwidth (PCIe 3.0 x4) as the internal, there is more than enough bus power to avoid an external PSU, and size doesn’t matter much for a desktop. External storage should thus be the same speed, close to the same price and more convenient than internal.

CPU upgrades are a better idea in theory than in practice, as Intel keeps changing sockets and standards that you can only rarely upgrade anyway. I don’t think it is worth it to enable a CPU upgrade.

The two that matter are GPU and RAM. GPU will be hard, as there is no standard for them smaller than a PCIe card (MXM is sort of a standard, but there is no standard cooling for more than 100W, and at least nVidia resists selling them on the open market) but RAM should be upgradeable.
     
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Jan 23, 2018, 08:32 AM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
A number of SSD modules in the laptops use an M.2 form factor, but with a custom logic chip. I feel Apple should make their controller able to fall back and use a standard M.2 if one is plugged in. As you say, in addition to their proprietary solution.
They could also make two red Apple turbo slots that are proprietary and two blue regular M.2 slots or so. I get P's point that external storage isn't limited by speed, although I reckon many people would prefer internal storage if at all possible. Accessibility for the sake of repairability is a further argument.

Just look at the laptops, what Apple's technicians have to do to change the battery or the keyboard in laptop. That process seems really wasteful to me — and expensive if your machine is out of warranty.
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
I've noticed as Apple gets bigger and more successful, they pay less heed to standardization.
I'm ok with that as long as proprietary means better. Apple's T2 chip really seems to be something, and I am perfectly happy if they need proprietary standards to give users a better product. However, on many other products proprietary hardware wasn't necessary.
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
It's affecting storage the most, but their open-source efforts have lagged too. Darwin.org isn't even a valid site any more, for example. And where is the APFS documentation, so 3rd parties can build solutions? If they'd stuck with ZFS, we'd already have file checksumming, on top of open documentation.
While I think taken as a sweeping statement, it isn't correct, I share your assessment about the specific projects you mentioned. Some of Apple's open source projects are half-hearted (say, Darwin) while others are very good (e. g. WebKit, llvm + clang and Swift). It really seems to depend on the team as to whether this is a pseudo-open source project (with yearly code dumps by Apple and internal development) or a best-of-breed open source project (Swift comes to mind). APFS isn't open source, although Apple should definitely release documentation.

When ZFS was a contender for replacing HFS+, I thought it was an excellent match for a filesystem for OS X. But APFS was designed to run on devices that ZFS could have never managed to run on such as the Watch. So I reckon Apple would have had to come up with APFS one way or another. Of course, I have whined quite a bit about the lack of data checksumming in APFS in this forum, so you know I am on your side there
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OreoCookie
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Jan 23, 2018, 08:51 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
External storage should thus be the same speed, close to the same price and more convenient than internal.
Internal storage still is more convenient and if I remember correctly, Apple left some PCIe lanes on the table in their design.
Originally Posted by P View Post
CPU upgrades are a better idea in theory than in practice, as Intel keeps changing sockets and standards that you can only rarely upgrade anyway. I don’t think it is worth it to enable a CPU upgrade.
I agree, although I would argue that being able to replace a CPU quickly would be a benefit for Apple as well. If Apple wants to get serious about becoming green, it should go back to designs that are not as tightly integrated with custom screws and the like.
Originally Posted by P View Post
The two that matter are GPU and RAM. GPU will be hard, as there is no standard for them smaller than a PCIe card (MXM is sort of a standard, but there is no standard cooling for more than 100W, and at least nVidia resists selling them on the open market) but RAM should be upgradeable.
Agreed: 100W isn't enough for really serious cards and volumes will be very low — and upgrades would have been very expensive. Since Apple seems intent on making a “modular” Mac Pro, I have no complaints about the GPU being not upgradable — if you want upgradable GPUs, the iMac Pro just isn't for you.
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reader50
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Jan 23, 2018, 01:59 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I'm ok with that as long as proprietary means better. Apple's T2 chip really seems to be something, and I am perfectly happy if they need proprietary standards to give users a better product.
I'm having reservations about the T2 since I read this report. The T2 apparently takes over the boot process, and it sounds like it only allows Apple-signed files to load. So the owner of the iMac Pro cannot for example, move a kext of their own into /System/Library/Extensions/ and have it load.

And you cannot restore after a crashed system without a 2nd Mac (and a High Sierra capable Mac at that) along with an internet connection. Can't restore without Apple's authorization servers. Those without a 2nd recent Mac can't fix their own "property". Locations without internet, likewise. In the future, locations in space beyond the response timeouts for Apple's servers as well. If the ping limit is 2 seconds, that would leave out a lunar station. As the T2 is hardware, it may not be possible to change the rules after the fact. "Your" property is permanently tethered to Apple. And NASA will continue using Windows and Linux systems.

If there's no way for the owner to override and regain control, then the T2 is a DRM solution. DRM removes control from the owner and places it with a corporation somewhere.
     
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Jan 23, 2018, 02:03 PM
 
Which was the last iMac where it was reasonably convenient to upgrade internal storage on? The first iMac G5 was great, but that was what, 15 years ago? The one after had that silliness with the credit card in the rear slot, and then it was all magnets and lifting out the display. Upgradeable internal storage on iMacs is long gone, and it matters much less there than on a laptop. With USB 3 and TB3, we finally have external storage that is just as good as internal, so I’m willing to let it go.

But I want that RAM door back.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 23, 2018, 02:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
I'm having reservations about the T2 since I read this report. The T2 apparently takes over the boot process, and it sounds like it only allows Apple-signed files to load. So the owner of the iMac Pro cannot for example, move a kext of their own into /System/Library/Extensions/ and have it load.

And you cannot restore after a crashed system without a 2nd Mac (and a High Sierra capable Mac at that) along with an internet connection. Can't restore without Apple's authorization servers. Those without a 2nd recent Mac can't fix their own "property". Locations without internet, likewise. In the future, locations in space beyond the response timeouts for Apple's servers as well. If the ping limit is 2 seconds, that would leave out a lunar station. As the T2 is hardware, it may not be possible to change the rules after the fact. "Your" property is permanently tethered to Apple. And NASA will continue using Windows and Linux systems.

If there's no way for the owner to override and regain control, then the T2 is a DRM solution. DRM removes control from the owner and places it with a corporation somewhere.
The lockdown features of the T2 can be completely disabled, if you do it before the Mac crashes in the first place. If I were to get an iMac Pro, I would do so first thing.

Apple is not the first to do this thing. MS has been working on it since the frigging nineties - this is what “Palladium” was all about - and it is workable now. The magic combination is Intel vPro, Bitlocker encryption, and EFI instead of BIOS that can be locked to work just like this. Heck, my work laptop is set up essentially like this - I need a code from central IT to boot it to anything but the installed OS. I’m OK with that - I don’t own the laptop, after all - but I do NOT want it on my personal Mac.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 23, 2018, 06:35 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
The lockdown features of the T2 can be completely disabled, if you do it before the Mac crashes in the first place. If I were to get an iMac Pro, I would do so first thing.
Ok, found a highly technical exploration of SecureBoot, and a more user-friendly one. Yes, you can turn it off. But you have to do it from the Recovery partition, and only after you've created an Admin account on the drive in question. I didn't see what happens if you have more than one volume on the drive, or multiple drives attached/installed.

I suppose this isn't a bad option for a public-facing computer (or employee computer), but it should be OFF by default. Instead, all iMac Pros ship with it enabled to the highest security level. I foresee lots of support calls.
     
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Jan 23, 2018, 07:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
I suppose this isn't a bad option for a public-facing computer (or employee computer), but it should be OFF by default. Instead, all iMac Pros ship with it enabled to the highest security level. I foresee lots of support calls.
I think choosing this as a default is ok, because I'm sure this feature will be coming to all Macs. In most circumstances it will give you a plus of security, I don't think there are many people running anything but macOS or Windows on their Macs. You are right that some people may be bitten in the rear end by this, but honestly, I think this is a good trade off — as long as Apple keeps all three options, of course.
Originally Posted by P View Post
Which was the last iMac where it was reasonably convenient to upgrade internal storage on?
That's fair, but on the other hand this is the first iMac Pro and I think it is only fair to revisit some design choices.
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Jan 24, 2018, 05:05 AM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
I suppose this isn't a bad option for a public-facing computer (or employee computer), but it should be OFF by default. Instead, all iMac Pros ship with it enabled to the highest security level. I foresee lots of support calls.
I agree, it should be off by default.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I think choosing this as a default is ok, because I'm sure this feature will be coming to all Macs. In most circumstances it will give you a plus of security, I don't think there are many people running anything but macOS or Windows on their Macs. You are right that some people may be bitten in the rear end by this, but honestly, I think this is a good trade off — as long as Apple keeps all three options, of course.
The same can be said of Filevault full disk encryption. That is, IIRC, a setup option on first boot. I don't see why this shouldn't be the same.

That's fair, but on the other hand this is the first iMac Pro and I think it is only fair to revisit some design choices.
I think that TB3 is also cause to revisit old assumptions about internal storage being better. It used to be that internal storage was faster - it isn't anymore (as TB3 is the same speed, and for a spinning disk the interface is not the limit anyway, even USB 3 as long as you have UASP). It used to be that internal storage was cheaper - it isn't anymore (no need for a PSU with bus-powered drives, and the internal drives are Apple-specific). Those things are no longer true. The only reason to keep the drives internal is to not mar the aesthetic, which isn't a very pro reason.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
   
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